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Financial Wellness Programs Are Growing In Popularity: What Are The Risks For Employers?

An annual survey from Fidelity Investments and the National Business Group on Health indicates 84 percent of surveyed companies that have a wellness program also include employee financial security as part of their programs. Financial wellness can include debt management tools, budgeting, student loan counseling and repayment plans, as well as assistance with mortgages and other debt.

Employees seem to like these programs, ranking them third behind physical and emotional well-being. Valerie Bolden-Barrett "Survey: 84% of companies now offer financial well-being benefits," hrdive.com (Apr. 11, 2017).


Commentary

The source article is unclear as to what other categories of well-being there might be in an employer wellness program other than physical, emotional, and financial. Nevertheless, what is clear is that many employees appreciate financial assistance programs.

We recently wrote on Millennials and their desire for more benefits regarding student loan debt. “Is Debt Keeping Your Millennials Disengaged? New Survey Says Yes”.

Financial wellness programs do have risks. If programs are offered to certain groups of employees, employers run an equal employment risk. For example, a program on student loan debt primarily benefits younger employees and may be viewed as discriminatory, even if offered to all employees.

A wrongful termination risk exists if management uses participation in a program when making termination decisions. An example of this would be if a manager fires an employee, thinking she is a risk for embezzlement because she attends a debt workshop.

The key for employers is to make certain all employees have access to the programs; preserve confidentiality of all the information an employee provides as part of the program; and preserve the privacy of employees on how and if they use the program.

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